Saturday, October 18, 2003

Rick and I further enjoyed the nice weather by taking a bug walk together this afternoon, and we happened to be in the right place at the right time to encounter The Grasshopper From Hannibal Lecter's Back Yard. It was an unassuming little green and black grasshopper; I was trying to hassle it mildly as it sat on a goldenrod stalk. It hopped onto my hand -- poink! -- as grasshoppers sometimes do. It then started to chew on my finger, something that grasshoppers normally don't do unless you're restraining them and they've already exhausted their spit supply.

This little bugger -- not even an inch long -- actually nibbled some of my outer skin layer loose, and then hopped obediently onto Rick's hand and did the same to him. When we'd had enough and wanted to get rid of it, we prodded it to encourage it to leave. It jumped onto the front of my sweatshirt and started to bite the cloth. That was enough; I plucked it off my shirt and put it back on the goldenrod. I hadn't been so thoroughly bitten by a harmless herbivore since getting nipped by five fuzzy little white arctiid caterpillars that we found in our clover patch back around '93. (Rick had put them in my hand, they crawled up my arm biting every inch of the way, and when I phoned an arctiid expert in Florida to chat about it, all he said was, "Wow, a new host!") In the case of the grasshopper (as with the caterpillars), I'm not sure whether this bug was exploiting a new host or simply practicing a stroke that probably won't keep it from sinking to the bottom of the gene pool. Oh, and only when I pulled it off my sweatshirt did it decide to finally spit on me.

After marveling over the grasshopper attack, we made our annual pilgrimage to WMU's Africa Nite, a celebration that our African Students Association has been putting on for forty years. Ate way too much food (cooked by the ASA members), and enjoyed every bit, especially the Senegalese chicken yassa with caakiri for dessert. Yassa is chicken stewed with onions and green olives; caakiri is a yogurt-and-semolina pudding with raisins and coconut. Oh, and someone else brought a ginger punch (sort of like ginger beer, but not carbonated) that I want more of right now. It was almost as interesting as the sweet-and-salty ginger drink that a South Asian (Bangladeshi, I think) acquaintance recently served to me; that one had limeade, cane juice, ginger, salt, coriander, and cumin in it. Come to think of it, I want more of that right now too.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Last night was the first night I'd had off in a while, and so I decided to do something I hadn't really done in a couple of years: curl up on the couch and watch the ballgame. And, y'know, some things never change. In 1967, as an eleven-year-old still mostly ignorant of baseball, I sat in front of my uncle's TV and watched the Red Sox lose Game 7 of the World Series. In 1975, sitting in front of a TV that had been temporarily set up in a dorm cafeteria at MIT, I watched the Red Sox lose Game 7 of the World Series. In 1986, in a small apartment in Watertown, Massachusetts equipped only with a small black and white portable, I watched the Red Sox lose Game 7 of the World Series.

I guess I'm not cut out to be a sports fan. This is a sacrilegious confession to make to anyone who really is a devout sports fan, but after watching the Sox blow their lead in the seventh game of the ALCS, I turned the game off at the start of the eleventh inning. It was late, I was tired, and I'd watched the Sox lose the seventh game of three other series before. (I wanna watch reruns, I go back to my old tapes of Red Dwarf and Futurama.) So, I can't claim that this time I actually watched the Sox lose the game, watched them blow it on the same combination of player hardheadedness and managerial hubris that led to their comeuppance in Game 6 in '86, watched them lose their most crucial game in seventeen years, and lose it to a team from a city so benighted that its residents dump clams into tomato soup and call it chowder.

I suppose it's kind of cool that the Marlins are back for the second time in seven seasons, despite having had their first championship team almost instantaneously sold off to anyone who was buying. It might also be mildly amusing, Yankees-wise, that Derek Jeter went to high school about a half-mile away from my house. But instead of watching the World Series, I may use the time to do some recreational reading. Or spend some quality time with my husband. Or buy myself a new pair of athletic shoes and start to actually get some exercise. No Red Sox, no Cubs, no problem.

Nope, not much of a sports fan. Too much frustration and not enough bugs. (Now, if we could get the flying ants to buzz the Tigers again ...)

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Excerpt from one of the 1,000,000,000,000 pieces of spam in this morning's mailbox:


Did you know the Government gives away money for almost any reason? ...$15,500 to over $650,000 in FREE Grant Money is Available TO YOU IMMEDIATELY!"

Anyone who has just spent entirely too many weeks working on fellowship proposals can point out the flaws in this one. Pity that spammers aren't subjected to peer review. (Then again, most of his peers -- other spammers -- would love it). Any relation, perhaps, between this 'bot and the ones that are still trying to sell me mail-order diplomas?

In other, very good news: The program manager for the most recent fellowship proposal gave me a deadline extension for the best of reasons: Just as I was about to upload my application, I got word that my second full-length article was accepted by a major journal. I had to update four separate application documents to reflect this. (It's very difficult to settle down at the computer and edit documents when you're already busy dancing the happy dance.) Anyway, the proposal got done, and I did submit it on the actual deadline date (although not by the original deadline hour). Best advice I ever got from Sue, my mentrix for all things grant-related: Never be too proud to telephone the program manager.

Oh, and just to keep the banner ads consistent for a while: Ants ants ants ants ants ants ants ants ants ants ants.